The struggles of Aston Villa misfits Wesley Moraes and Mbwana Samatta in the Premier League may have deterred West Ham United from taking a punt on Genk striker Paul Onuachu, former Jupiler League hero Jan Ceulemans has told Het Laaste Nieuws.
As Onuachu put RFC Seraing to the sword on Sunday – a hat-trick taking his tally to 11 goals in 12 games for the season already – the 2m target man could be forgiven for wondering what he’d done wrong.
Onuachu scored 35 goals last season after all. So why is a striker in the prime of his career still plying his trade in a B-list league?
While West Ham expressed an interest in the summer – is there a striker the Hammers didn’t try to sign? – a £22 million price tag proved a substantial sticking point.
West Ham were unwilling to pay that much for a striker who, despite a goalscoring record Cristiano Ronaldo would be proud of, remains unproven in a major European league.
And who can blame them, really?
During the 2019/20 season, top-flight rivals Aston Villa paid a combined £34 million to sign two Jupiler League frontmen – Moraes and Samatta.
After scoring just six goals in 39 Premier League games between them, it’s telling that neither player is strutting their stuff in claret and blue these days.
Did Aston Villa misfits put West Ham off taking a punt on Onuachu?
“I don’t understand why Onuachu didn’t get away this summer,” says Cuelemans, a legendary hitman who scored goals for fun in the colours of Club Brugge.
“The only explanation I see is foreign clubs have become more careful with strikers from the Belgian league. Often scoring in Belgium hasn’t proved a guarantee for a bigger competition.”
Leon Bailey, Arnaut Danjuma, Joakim Maehle and Youri Tielemans have also gone on to bigger and better things after making a name for themselves against the likes of Oostende, Charleroi and Zulte Waregem.